Working Long Hours May Hurt Women’s Chances of Pregnancy

Long workweeks appear to result in delayed pregnancies for many women. But what's behind the link?

Working Long Hours May Hurt Women’s Chances of Pregnancy Photo (cc) by bradfordst219

One more reason to gripe about long workweeks: They’re associated with delayed pregnancies, a new study shows.

The study of nurses who were trying to get pregnant links women’s working more than 40 hours a week, as well as lifting heavy loads, with delayed conception.

Lead study author Audrey Gaskins, a researcher at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, tells Reuters:

“Our results show that heavy work, both in terms of physical strain and long hours, appears to have a detrimental impact on female nurses’ ability to get pregnant.”

The study is titled “Work schedule and physical factors in relation to fecundity in nurses” and was published online by the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

The findings are based on a review of data on more than 1,700 female nurses who tried to conceive between 2010 and 2014. An estimated 16 percent of participants had yet to get pregnant after a year, and 5 percent had not become pregnant after two years.

Women who worked more than 40 hours a week had to try for a 20 percent longer time period to get pregnant than women who worked 21 to 40 hours a week.

Women who did lifting or moved objects of more than 25 pounds more than 15 times a day also took longer to conceive than women whose jobs did not entail such labor. This association was greater for overweight and obese women.

Reuters reports that while it’s possible that certain working conditions might be more conducive to pregnancy, the researchers note that it’s also possible that women who are struggling to get pregnant might simply choose to work more hours.

But Courtney Lynch, a specialist in reproductive health at Ohio State University who was not involved in the study, tells Reuters that there might be an even simpler explanation:

“If this effect is real, it is likely due to the fact that these women are having less frequent intercourse due to their work demands.”

Are you surprised by this study’s findings? Let us know what you think below or on Facebook.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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